Duke in the NBA: Parker has career day in Brooklyn before Coaches vs. Cancer Classic

With the NBA season going strong, former Duke stars have adjusted to their new roles, new offenses and new teams with varying levels of success. We take a look at how some of the former Blue Devils have performed so far:

Jabari Parker, Milwaukee Bucks

After struggling to begin the season, the popular preseason Rookie of the Year selection seems to finally have turned a corner. The Chicago native has averaged 13.8 points per game on 53 percent shooting in the best five-game stretch of his career. However, Parker’s improvements on offense go beyond an improved shooting percentage. Early in the season, the forward had difficulty earnings trips to the free-throw line—resulting in just 20 free throw attempts through 11 games.

But in Parker’s last two games, he has attempted a total of 16 free throws, which is indicative of a new-found understanding of how to be successful in head coach Jason Kidd’s offense. Although the former Duke star has struggled to make the immediate impact many analysts predicted, there is no doubting Parker’s value to the Milwaukee team. With a three-game win streak in the past week, the Bucks climbed to 6-5 on the season and better than .500 for the first time since March, 2013.

On Wednesday, the 6-foot-8 forward had the best game of his career at the Barclays center, posting 23 points on 8-of-13 shooting and adding seven rebounds and two steals. Parker visited Duke's current squad in New York City at practice following after his career day.

Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers

The former Duke point guard has continued his extremely strong stretch of play with six consecutive 20-plus point games, averaging fewer than two turnovers per game during that stretch. Irving has been especially lethal from beyond the arc—shooting 47 percent from distance over the past week of play. Irving did take a hit in his public rivalry with fellow No. 1 overall pick John Wall Friday as the Cavaliers lost to the Wizards by 13 points in a game that saw Wall lead all scorers with 28 points.

However, the fact that Irving’s strong play continues to be overlooked is due to the 5-6 record of the overly hyped Cavaliers squad. Although the point guard’s shoot-first and turnover-prone mentalities have been attributed to the Cavaliers early struggles, it is clear that more is wrong with this Cleveland team than just Irving. For now, time and patience seem to be the only solutions in Cleveland.

Mike Dunleavy, Chicago Bulls

The 12-year journeyman has continued to prove his worth to championship-caliber teams during the opening stretch of the season. Dunleavy has put together solid efforts of 19 points on 6-of-10 shooting and 12 points on 4-of-13 shooting as the Bulls have continued a three-game road-trip.

Although the former Duke star often gets his claim to fame from beyond the arc, Dunleavy has actually struggled from three to this point in the season. The forward’s 39 percent shooting from deep is actually his second-worst shooting percentage over the past five years. However, Dunleavy has been able to maintain his starting position despite competition from rookie Doug McDermott and play a solid role for a contender in the Eastern Conference.

Carlos Boozer, Los Angeles Lakers

After showing no signs of life for the first two weeks of the season, the former all-star has finally stepped up his play, helping the hapless Lakers to a 2-2 record over the past week. Boozer had his best performance of the season Tuesday against the Hawks, with 20 points on 10-of-14 shooting in the Lakers' second win of the season. Entering his 12th year in the NBA, it remains to be seen just how much the former Duke player has left in the tank. However, performances like Tuesday’s are just what Boozer needs in order to garner attention as expiring-contract trade bait.

Lance Thomas, Oklahoma City Thunder

The former Duke forward has been the main beneficiary of extended injures to superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook that have derailed a Thunder team that had legitimate championship aspirations. Thomas scored a career-high 15 points in 26 minutes in a loss to the Rockets Sunday. However, as a whole, Thomas has yet to bring the thunder for an Oklahoma City team that has now lost six straight. It remains to be seen whether the Thunder can right the ship with their superstars return in the horizon and whether this signifies a major reduction in Thomas’ playing time.

Kyle Singler, Detroit Pistons

The often-forgotten key contributor to the Blue Devils ;last title in 2010 has performed well in a recent stretch of games, albeit in losing efforts. Singler had a season-high 21 points on 5-of-7 shooting from three and 6-6 shooting from the line. On a team with so many wing players, the former Duke starter has been buried deep in the rotation and has struggled for consistent playing times. However, with the Pistons off to one of the worst starts in the Eastern Conference, Singler could be a much-needed spark.

Mason Plumlee, Brooklyn Nets: Although he came into the season expected to take on a much bigger work load after playing for Team USA this summer, the second-year man has seen a decrease in minutes this week. Plumlee scored just eight points in four games in 42 total minutes this week. Although he pulled down 15 boards, the 6-foot-11 center has to be frustrated that his numbers in his sophomore campaign are down.

Rodney Hood, Utah Jazz

The rookie has struggled with plantar fasciitis in his right foot and remains sidelined for another two-to-three weeks. Hood was struggling to make an impact for a young Jazz team before his injury.

Ryan Kelly, Los Angeles Lakers

After receiving brief playing time in his two games back from injury, the forwar’s career once again took a turn for the worse. Kelly tore his right hamstring during Sunday’s loss and will be sidelined for six weeks. However, arguably more important is the fact that Kelly has begun to garner a reputation as an injury-prone player around the league.

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